Japan will be taking their game against Qatar seriously on Wednesday, the team has vowed, despite having already qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
Qatar, who held Group A leaders Australia to a goalless draw at home on Saturday, are determined to keep alive their hopes of booking a spot in the play-off against the third-placed team from Group B. Japan's coach Takeshi Okada said his team's remaining qualifiers against Qatar and Australia would be a test of his squad's ambitious goal of reaching the semi-finals in South Africa next year. Australia have clinched the other berth for the group in the tournament.
"Don't lose your concentration. Think for yourselves about what you have lacked so far and what you need," Okada was quoted as telling his squad on Monday. Japan narrowly beat Uzbekistan 1-0 away on Saturday to share the group's top place with Australia - each with four wins and two draws.
We don't think it is just a dead rubber... We won't change our play but we will boost our accuracy.
Okada will watch Wednesday's match from the stands after being red-carded in Tashkent when he raised his voice as one of his players was sent off in the 89th minute. Okada said he was only giving instructions to his players.
Japan and Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura said: "I believe Qatar have come to Japan highly motivated after drawing with Australia. And that'll be great. We will play as usual by putting on pressure, with everybody taking part in offence and defence," added the 30-year-old playmaker.
Gamba Osaka midfielder Yasuhito Endo said: "We don't think it is just a dead rubber... We won't change our play but we will boost our accuracy."
Qatar coach Bruno Metsu said he hoped that the one point from the Australia match had given his side "plenty of confidence to achieve another positive result. It shows that we are playing at a better level than we were when we suffered our previous losses," the Frenchman told media before leaving Doha.
Bahrain take on the Socceroos in Sydney on Wednesday, with seven points from six matches - compared with five for Qatar and four for Uzbekistan.
Whoever finishes third in the group will reach the Asian play-off and, if they win, vie with Oceanian winners New Zealand for a berth in South Africa. Qatar and Uzbekistan have only one match left to play in qualifying.
Okada set his sights on a semi-final spot in South Africa when he took over from ailing Bosnian Ivica Osim in late 2007. He piloted Japan to a winless FIFA World Cup debut at France 1998 in his first stint as national coach. Japan reached the last-16 in 2002 at home under French coach Philippe Troussier but faded with two losses and one draw under Brazilian legend Zico in the group stage in 2006 in Germany.